Friday, April 15, 2016
Swarm Activity on a Ridiculously Windy Day
I apologize for the lack of photos accompanying this post. On Sunday I was caught unprepared for any swarming because of the high constant winds and gale force gusts. Seriously, it seemed like the roof might blow off the house any minute.
I couldn't believe it when I looked out the office window and saw so much activity. Then I ran out to the garden and saw that the bees filled the air from their hive to the front yard. In the wind it took much longer for them to cluster together since it was probably like landing a plane in a tornado but also the high winds were disseminating the queen's pheromone so many of the girls just looked lost flying around the sky not sure where to go. I was mourning the loss of this huge swarm. Swarm retrieval fifty feet up in a tree is not going to happen.
Just when I was lamenting their choice they began to move and regrouped on a branch of my Japanese Maple. I regained hope. It was going to be tricky but it was doable. They had almost all clustered up when another huge gust sent many of them flying and they all took to the air again. They flew next door and clustered on the ground beside a storage shed.
I was using my nuc (a small hive body that holds only 5 frames) for a split I made Saturday so I put together a bottom board, honey super and cover to try to coax them into. I baited the landing board with lemongrass oil. I taped the whole thing together since it would have to be moved later and sat it right next to the swarm.
Within 10 minutes they were going inside and clustering all around the outside. I kept hoping they would all go in but that would have been too easy. I wanted to hurry since these girls were not on my property.
You know how every neighborhood has that one neighbor?
I sent my husband to the door but they wouldn't come to the door even though they were home. I could just envision them coming out to thousands of bees in their yard and asking what the hell was going on.
And why do bees like to swarm on the weekends when the neighbors are all home? I've tried to explain that this behavior really needs to be a nine to five Monday through Friday deal but they don't seem interested in keeping banker's hours.
I scoured the house and shed for a box big enough to place the whole honey super in but in the end the best I could do was our empty yard waste container which has wheels. It's basically the city trash can only the contents of it get picked up by a special truck and are taken to be made into mulch.
I didn't even bother with smoking because it would have been useless in the wind. I lifted the box of bees, most of which were hanging around on the outside and slid it into the trash can on wheels. Some fell off as I scraped them against the side in my haste. I quickly rolled it across the cove to their new home while a trail of bees followed me. My other neighbors sat on the patio and watched me while drinking beer.
When I tell you I am entertainment for my neighbors I'm not kidding.
It wasn't a neat hiving. I took the lid off and shook some bees into the new hive. Then I shook them off the bottom. I used a brush my husband brought along to scrape them up out of the can and put them inside. It looked disastrous. Only about half the swarm made it in the hive, the can was still abuzz, there were hundreds in the air. I stuffed the entrance with grass leaving a small opening on one side so bees still outside could find their way in.
You know how many bees you have to catch to make sure you have the whole new colony?
When I had all the bees I could reasonably hope to I put the lid on and stepped away. While my husband and I chatted a few feet from the activity the bees began to settle on the outside of the hive. I waited a few minutes and then checked the opening. There were six or seven bees around it with their rear ends up in the air fanning their wings to let the stragglers know that the queen was inside.
I went home and cleaned up and put my equipment away. An hour later I strolled back to check on them. Every bee had gone inside.
Or so I thought...
Tomorrow I'll share the conclusion of this escapade.